This holiday season, with your help, we are giving to HQ – a runaway and homeless youth drop-in center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you purchase a travel gift through our Amazon Associate Program, we’ll donate 10% of our earnings to HQ. Click here to view the travel gifts and purchase.
To learn more about HQ, the staff have contributed the following guest blog post…
HQ: A Place Where You Belong
“It was the worst day of my life,” she explained, as I listened, horrified to learn any person, let alone a 17-year-old would have to encounter what she had just described. It wasn’t the lack of food, sleeping in a tent, or the brutal assault that hurt me to my core; it was the lack of anyone decent enough around her to intervene. “She’s just a kid,” I thought to myself as she carried herself through the drop-in space with such confidence and poise. I was amazed at the strength I observed. The hope to keep going. The belief in something better than her current circumstances. When I asked her how she did it; how she managed to wake up every day with such hope, she stated, without a second of hesitation, “I knew you all would miss me if I were gone.”
HQ is so much more than eating a home-cooked meal with friends, warm showers, or clean laundry. It is more than access to basic needs items like deodorant and underwear. It is a place where you belong. A place where your absence is noted. You are missed. Authentically cared about. A place where genuine support is second nature and the honest belief in one’s potential is celebrated. We move beyond the label of homeless and into the work of transformation, one step at a time.
On any given night in Grand Rapids, Michigan, there are young people with no safe place to go and no stability. Forced to make decisions allowing them to survive tonight rather than thrive tomorrow. Disconnected from positive relationships and support, these youth fall prey to life on the streets. A life that that doesn’t care what you have to sacrifice to survive. Without intervention, these choices put their long-term well-being at risk. Not only have they lost stability, but they have also become disconnected from essential relationships.
HQ starts from a place of relationship. Allowing youth the opportunity to build trust, heal from past traumas, and simply be— before jumping to solutions, goal setting, intrusive story gathering, and other pushes toward “recovery.” Using the trust and relationships built with youth, we learn the intricate details of how home instability leads to a housing crisis. Crises that in turn lead to maladaptive coping strategies like substance use, sex for money, violence, trauma, and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. We also are entrusted with the stories of survival, perseverance, and overwhelming courage possessed by HQ youth. Through relationships built over time, HQ becomes a place for youth to find stability, empowerment, and the confidence to pursue their dreams.
HQ opened in December of 2014 as Grand Rapids’ first drop-in center for runaway and homeless youth. HQ was made possible by the community recognizing a need for a safe space for youth where they can rebuild trust in adults and social service providers, before engaging with youth services and then working together to launch HQ. We work with youth ages 14-24 during eight, two-hour drop-in sessions a week by providing a safe and welcoming space with a strong emphasis on inclusion and equity for youth experiencing housing instability.
HQ provides services based on the philosophy of rest, resources, and readiness. We believe first, youth must find a place to find rest, feel safe, and be affirmed exactly as they are, prior to being able to address their current crisis. This is accomplished through drop-in where youth build relationships with staff and community partners. During drop- in, youth have access to resources at no cost (e.g.: showers, laundry facility, kitchen/meal, computer lab, and hygiene items) and the opportunity to create connections with HQ staff and other community service providers that operate out of HQ’s space. HQ also has expanded its work with youth to extend beyond drop-in hours in others areas of service such as employment, education, and data collection. Third is readiness. The act opportunity and support to go out and pursue one’s dreams. Youth are given opportunities to expand upon learned job readiness skills by participating in paid youth ambassador work at HQ, providing leadership during events, and obtaining supportive employment through HQ’s business partners.
If you’d like to get involved at HQ or learn more about the work we do, we would love to see you at a Fourth Friday Tour, complete with free lunch and a first-hand look at our space. Check our website HQgr.org for the next tour dates and to sign-up! If you have any questions feel free to reach out to our Development Director, Luke, at email@example.com